Shalom! Peace is the message contained in the Holy Scriptures; it is the fruit of justice. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Mt 5,9). For Jews, the word Shalom has a deeper meaning, that is, the good relationship with God and with one’s neighbors, true happiness.
September 21 is the International Day of Peace, established by the General Assembly of the United Nations on November 30, 1981. The “Perugia-Assisi March Peace”, an initiative that promotes human rights, has been already planned on 9 October 2016.
All the Popes have made their contribution to build peace among peoples. Two conciliar statements were issued: Nostra Aetate on the relations with non-Christian religions and Dignitatis Humanae, on religious freedom. Besides, there is a more recent document by COMECE (Bishops’ Commission of the European Union) entitled Promoting Peace in the World as Europe’s Vocation.
Pope Karol invited the leaders of world religions to Assisi twice, to join him in prayer and each has made a commitment, contained in the so-called “Decalogue of Assisi” to eliminate racism and divisions. His appeal during the 2002 meeting in Assisi is still strong today: “No more violence, no more war… every religion shall bring justice and peace…”Violence can only be eradicated through forgiveness.
It is an educational mission, an achievement, you have to teach people to love each other and this task falls especially on religions. There is an urgent need to make it clear to the extremists that they should not exploit the name of God to justify their crimes.
Those who commit today to build a future free from hate are a commendable example of how to be peacemakers. We need a cultural battle.
This sea change needs to be carried out through radical choices, peace has to be a lifestyle, a value to be preserved, and it is a right and duty for every man of every race or religion. We have to create situations where you sow every day for peace.
We should summarize the steps made towards peace so far, by The San Martino Ecumenical Centre in Perugia, in charge of building an inter-religious dialogue, in collaboration with the University for foreigners; “Rondine” Cittadella della Pace (Arezzo); and the “Little School of Peace” of Scandiano (RE).
The first one is a non-profit organization founded in ’97, which promotes the culture of dialogue. Young people from countries plagued by armed conflicts learn to live together there, even if they come from enemy peoples. They live together for two years and each of them is educated in something, to be able to return to their country of origin and weave a new social and political network for the future. The other company, founded in 2001, has created a Small Bridge of Peace with Serbia, through peace initiatives for schools and tandems between Italian and Serbian students.
Another positive experience, is that of a special Israeli village, near the Holy City: “Neve Shalom-Wahat al-Salam”. It has two names: one is Jewish, the other Arab, because here Jews and Arabs live together in harmony. All the children go to the same schools and learn both languages. The guidelines are: a pluralistic spiritual center, and education to peace. Children grow up in a peaceful environment because their families have decided to live peace.
“The day when the power of love will exceed the love of power, the world will find peace” (M. Gandhi).